SeeFoon hankers after Italian and finds it at Marianis

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Ever since Deano and his wife sold Italia Mia in the Sunway area, my hankering for tastes and aromas Italian has gone largely unsatisfied. That trattoria ambiance, with Mama in the kitchen and Papa taking the orders and fussing around to make sure that your meal is okay, homemade pasta served al dente, the smell of garlic and virgin olive oil permeating the room has remained nostalgic in my gustatory memory banks for quite a while.

Now all that has changed with the arrival of Marianis. Located in the De Garden shopping and restaurant complex, it occupies the space where Pappa Rich used to be, just below Daorae the Korean restaurant. Proprietor Dato’ Dr Wenddi Chong and her partner Kim Goo have gone to great lengths to fit out the restaurant tastefully. A bar at the entrance is ideal for drinks as you wait for a table while the kitchen boasts its own wood-fired oven for pizzas. They have even gone to the extent of having their own private restroom for their clients so that one need not traipse the long distance to the public toilets and most likely to face the inevitable stench and mess commonly found here in Malaysia.

Kim who designs the menus with the Chef, comes from a strong Food and Beverage background and manages the restaurant. One evening when I was there, he came over and offered me a Scotch, a Tarans Blended Scotch 18 years old. Being a keen Scotch drinker and never having tried this particular brand, I accepted with alacrity and found it mellow and smooth – my kind of liquid gold. According to Kim, he is the only person serving this particular brand of Scotch in Ipoh and one that I would definitely recommend sampling.

The menu is extensive with ample selections in each of the usual categories of starters, pastas, meats, fish and desserts and of course pizzas from their wood-fired oven.

For starters, their Carpaccio Con Rucola E Grana which is thin slices of raw beef on a bed of rocket salad with lemon and extra virgin olive oil dressing topped with parmesan cheese flakes, is well worth trying if one has no aversion to eating raw beef. The same goes for their Carpaccio Di Salmone which is thinly sliced smoked salmon with a tangy lemon dressing.

This was shortly followed by a pasta dish and on this particular occasion we had the Spaghetti Aglio Olio Peperoncino, which is spaghetti with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh chilli.

What is worth noting on their menu is the admonition on the menu for pasta which stated that if you wish to have your pasta well-cooked to please inform the chef as they cook their pasta ‘Al Dente’ which means still resilient to the bite. However, I was disappointed on this particular evening as the pasta arrived well overcooked! On questioning Kim, he explained that the local taste was for well cooked pasta and his chefs were accommodating local tastes! So a word of advice. If you wish to have your pasta ‘al dente’ stress to the person taking your order that you will return it if it’s overcooked!

I was well rewarded on another occasion when I returned to taste their ‘pièce de résistance’ one of Marianis’ specials of the month. This was an irresistible Aragosta All’Marianis a whole lobster, served with a choice of Alio Olio (extra virgin olive oil and garlic) or Sorpasso which is a spicy sauce. This time I was emphatic about the pasta being ‘al dente’ and sure enough it arrived, the grilled lobster aroma wafting ahead, a juicy whole lobster of around 700-800 gms, split in two, sitting on top of spaghetti that was garlicky, spicy (I chose the Sorpasso) and perfectly ‘al dente’. It was a treat worth the RM138 per portion price and must be pre-ordered as they have a limited number of lobsters. For those who might find this price a bit steep, the same pasta with fresh grilled seafood is equally good.

A dish I would recommend especially for the vegetarians is their Ravioli Crema Di Spinachi, the Italian ‘wonton’ of homemade pasta filled with spinach, mushrooms, white truffle oil and cheese flakes. Again, if you insist on al dente, it will be so but I suspect that a lot of our Ipohite taste buds prefer the softer version.

The Cannelloni Al Funghi E Parmigiano Con Tartufo is another vegetarian delight and a rich meal in itself. These are crepes with creamy mushrooms and parmesan cheese baked with mushroom sauce and drizzled with truffle oil.

For fishterians, I can recommend the Trancia Di Cod, a grilled fillet of cod served with sun-dried tomato sauce and for the carnivores, the Stinco D’Agnello Al Forno which is lamb shank slow roasted in red wine and herbs. This was juicy and fall-off-the-bone tender, the sauce lending a smooth mouthfeel to each morsel.

As I said at the beginning of this review, the menu at Marianis is extensive with items to suit most taste buds and pockets. And I haven’t even mentioned their pizzas and their Focaccias!

There is a choice of 18 pizzas and one Calzone (a folded over pizza like a huge curry puff) ranging from the vegetarian ones with herbs, cheese and tomatoes to the carnivore’s favourites with beef, turkey ham, seafoods, a selection to suit every palate. Their selection of homemade Focaccia (a type of flat Italian bread made with yeast and olive oil and flavoured with herbs) makes for excellent Italian sandwiches. The  selection of vegetarian, Tuna fish, grilled chicken, smoked salmon and beef burger makes for a difficult choice although the Focaccia burger which I sampled was scrumptious.

For dessert, the one item that is a ‘must try’ is their Panna Cotta Alle Noci E Miele, their homemade cream pudding served with walnut and honey sauce. This was velvety smooth, the pudding gliding like silk on the way down the gullet with the crunchy walnuts lending texture to the mouth feel.
I am happy that Marianis is here to stay and not another half-year wonder that we’ve seen in past years. Ipoh needs more dining outlets for the gourmet experience and I hope that the quality of their food remains consistent. So Kim, as General Manager and Executive Chef Sonny Teh, please keep giving us Ipohites something to rave about.

At the time this goes to print, Mariani’s will be awarded a Class A recognition by MBI which is quite an accolade considering that the restaurant has only been open for four months.

Recommendations:
Carpaccio Di Salmone with lemon dressing (smoked salmon) – RM26
Carpaccio Con Rucola E Grana (Raw beef tenderloin on rocket salad) – RM28
Ravioli Crema Di Spinaci (Spinach Ravioli) — RM38
Cannelloni Al Funghi E Parmigiano con Tartufo (Mushrooms Crepes) – RM32
Pizzas – RM18-35
Focaccia – RM18-28
Trancia Di Cod – RM48
Stinco D’Agnello Al Forno (Lamb shank) – RM48
Spaghetti Sorpasso (Spicy spaghetti with fresh grilled seafood) – RM48
Aragosta All’Marianis (Whole lobster with garlic and olive oil or Spicy) – RM138
Panna Cotta Alle Noci E Miele (Cream pudding with walnuts and honey) – RM12

Marianis will be offering a special Christmas and New Year’s menu. Priced at RM158+ per person, the 4-course meal includes a glass of sparkling Prosecco Vetriano. Call them for a preview.

Marianis Italian Ristorante (Pork free)
GF 11,12,13 &13A DeGarden, #3 Persiaran Medan Ipoh, Medan Ipoh.
Tel: 05 548 6505; Kim Goo: 014 212 9211
Business Hours: 4pm-midnight

SeeFoon goes from North to South in her Foodie quest

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

The one lament I have about being introduced to ‘Tai Chau’ (literally translated to mean ‘big fry’) restaurants is that the dishes in each are, as the Americans would put it…‘same old, same old’. Meaning that they all serve the same dishes and have similar items on their menus. The only variations are in the preparation styles and the skill of the ‘wok’ person in the kitchen and the flavours he/she coaxes out of the food. And that is what separates the wheat from the chafe. And what brings in the customers like myself and my foodie friends.

For eat we must and daily. And while our eager group will check out any small nook and corner with any new opening bringing one or two of our curious ones to check it out, on the whole, we end up returning to some perennial favourites or adopting some new ones that we discover. While some of these may have been operating for years, like Lo Tian Seafood Restaurant which is in the north of Ipoh close to Jelapang, serving folks from Silibin, First Garden and Taman Rishah, some others like Restoran Likarli are relatively new, catering to up-and-coming communities like the burgeoning one in Seri Botani in the south, close to the Simpang Pulai toll.

In this review, I shall cover both outlets in one go as the menu items are similar and I will highlight only those items that impressed me.

Restoran Likarli
This is a two-shoplot restaurant with well spaced out tables and one side fully air conditioned. The service is brisk and friendly and they are happy to make recommendations.

One of their specialties here that they recommend to everyone is their Mun Cheong chicken, a 90-day old (most market chickens are slaughtered at around 40-45 days) bird of the Wu So Kai or ‘whiskered’ chicken variety. This is steamed and served with a ginger/scallion paste. As the chicken has had sufficient time to grow, the meat is more hearty and voluptuous without descending into stringy toughness which some old birds are prone to do. At an average size of 3kg and above, the serving is huge and it’s advisable to request for half portions if the group is smaller.

The homemade pumpkin tofu served with tung fun or bean thread noodles and garlic had a velvety texture and was scrumptious, as were the green peppers and black beans, the peppers still crisp on the bite with the black beans lending its smoky saltiness to the dish.

Venison Kway Teow or flat rice noodles was delicious, the venison well seasoned and tender, imbuing its gamey flavour to the bland white noodles and raising it to culinary heights. Similarly, the salted egg yolk added to the batter of the fried sotong or fresh squid, lifted this ubiquitous denizen of the depths to another dimension.

Lo Tian Seafood Restaurant
This is another one of my foodie friend, Ginla Chew’s peripatetic finds and considering that its so close to where I live I will be eternally grateful. Apparently, this is a coffee shop that has been open for quite some time specialising in river fish and white pomfret which is always available. As white pomfret is one of my favourite fish, I shall certainly consider making it my local ‘canteen’.

The night we went, we had the wild river fish head which came in a claypot and was absolutely mouth-watering fresh and certainly a dish I would recommend. Next came the soft shell crabs fried with salted egg yolk-crispy and umami morsels that just melt in the mouth.

The Dong Por Yoke or pork belly braised in dark soya sauce was wobblingly delectable albeit a tad too sweet for my palate. However, the next dish of Ikan Bilis Szechuan style made up for it with its sizzling spiciness tempered by the tofu cubes, long beans and onions.

The Salt Baked Kampung Chicken was average with the smokiness overpowering the subtle flavouring but the wonton noodles fried with chunks of roasted pork was tasty and excellent value at RM10. As was the Tom Yam Fried Rice. For a finishing touch we had fried Umeji mushrooms and pea pods or ‘mange tout’ embellished with crispy bits of dried sotong or squid. One dish that we didn’t get to try was their Hot Plate Har Gao or dumplings on a hot plate which I promised to return to sample on another day.

All in all, Lo Tian with its very friendly lady proprietor Choong Poh Foong, is one place I shall frequent.

Restoran Likarli
44 Jalan Lapangan Siber 10, Bandar Cyber, 31350 Ipoh.
Tel:  016 529 0298
Business Hours:  noon-2.30pm; 5.30-10.30pm
GPS:  N 04° 32.528’ E 101° 06.543’

Lo Tian Seafood Restaurant
11, Jalan Raja Perempuan Mazwin, Taman Rishah, 30100 Ipoh.
Tel:  05 528 3575, Madam Choong:  012 556 6557
Business Hours:  5pm-midnight
Closed every fortnight Wednesdays
GPS:  N 04° 36.6’ E 101° 03.32’

SeeFoon goes in search of Teochew Food

Musings on Food

by SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Call it Chaozhou, Teochew, or Teochiew as in the case of the Teochiew Restaurant on Maxwell Road but I drive past it almost daily and the name has caught my eye but like most other restaurants that my eagle foodie eye notices, I don’t dare make a move to try it until my intrepid Foodie frontrunner Ginla Chew has checked it out and decided it is worth reviewing that I venture forth, to eat, to taste and to write.

Such is the case with Restoran Teochiew. In the day, it looks nondescript enough but at night, its a bustling hive of activity as local foodies congregate to eat, drink and make merry in this restaurant with its open space next door.

As is typical, this is a fan-cooled-only space but they do lay on the red table cloths if you call to reserve a table. On the day we went, we were a group of six and my foodie friend Ginla was already there when I arrived with my two guests, one an American from Hong Kong and the other from USA.

We had come here specially for the Steamboat or Hot Pot which ‘legend’ (or what passes as legend in Ipoh, which is word of mouth) has it, is very special and very reasonably priced. This we immediately ordered and it arrived with a steaming tureen of bubbling stock and many  plates of goodies to dip into the soup.

Unlike the usual steamboat stock one finds in other steamboat restaurants, this soup is your typical Teochiew one, with preserved mustard greens (Ham Choy), tomatoes and other unknown ingredients. I suspect this stock remains on the stove and is continuously replenished with fresh ingredients, not unlike some Hong Kong chefs who allegedly use the same superior broth that is preserved for decades (according to popular media). I wondered if this restaurant did the same thing but all attempts to get an answer was to no avail.

The ingredients that go into the tangy broth are not your usual off-the-factory-shelf ones. The standard set costing RM40 had nice fresh medium-sized prawns in the shell, chicken slices, jelly fish, homemade minced pork scoops, tofu, regular fish balls and unusual meat-stuffed fishballs. These latter ones are very typically Teochiew and not easily available. The ones here were springy with the minced meat inside providing a burst of umami texture when biting into them.

Vegetables were minimal and we decided to order separately, calling for a big helping of watercress which were young and crispy. We could have re-ordered extra portions and make the hotpot our main meal but we chose to try other dishes instead and waited patiently for them to  arrive.

Other dishes came rapidly, the Keong Nga Kai or Ginger Chicken was well coated with a generous amount of ginger and had good ‘wok hei’ (pan fire), the chicken tender and juicy. Black vinegar trotters followed, not too sweet or sour and the trotter pieces cooked to the right degree of tenderness.

Mustard greens or Ham Choy came next, well married with roasted pork leg and stewed till tender. We then had the Fried Tofu, crispy morsels of soft tofu served with an interesting garlic, chilli and coriander or Chinese parsley sauce.

The two dishes of distinction had to be the following: the Thai Style ‘Otak Otak’ which was tangy, spicy and full of flavour. Made from mixed seafood, the paste that binds it all together was irresistibly fragrant, hints of Thai basil appearing above the melange of other spices and the coconut milk lending its creaminess to the mixture.

This was followed by pork ribs braised in a whole pumpkin, with peanuts providing texture and dried prawns lending their inimitable aroma, elevating the whole dish to new heights. The pumpkin was sweet, tender and juicy and eaten with the stuffing, I found myself in culinary heaven. Something so basic, simple home cooking raised to divine levels.

We finished the meal with the ‘de rigueur’ noodle dish with on this evening and a specialty of the house, was the Kon Lo Meen or the dried fried noodles. This was done just right, with the usual prawns, egg, and green accompaniments; the noodles dry but well coated.

This is one restaurant I would go back to again, a friendly place where the beer is cold, the food hot and some dishes, divine!

Suggested dishes:

Steamboat Set – RM40
Thai Style Otak Otak – RM25
Honey Ginger Chicken – RM12
Black Vinegar Pork Trotters – RM12
Fried Teochiew Tofu – RM8
Pumpkin Pork Ribs – RM26
Braised Mustard Greens with roasted pork – RM16

Teochiew Restaurant
10-Q Jalan Tun Abdul Razak (Maxwell Rd)
Tel: 05 506 3299
Business Hours: 10am-2.30pm and 5pm-midnight
Closed Tuesdays

SeeFoon Goes Gastro Bar Hopping

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

Where I used to be the doyenne of pubs and nightspots with loud music I now shun places where the decibel level is higher than 65 (the decibel level for normal speech), seeking instead, venues where quiet conversation, good food and reasonably priced drinks are the raison d’etre for going.

So when my gang of office colleagues suggested that I go bar hopping with them, I shuddered and was about to decline when one of them said, “The food is pretty good and if we go early, like after work, its not noisy”. After much cajoling, I relented and we all traipsed off to Bricks & Barrels for an early dinner.

Arriving at 6.30pm, the lights were dimmed and a few tables were already occupied mostly with drinkers. One big family of varying ages occupied almost one side of the room and it was heartening watching them tucking into platter after platter of food and relishing each bite.

Our ‘small’ group of seven settled at one of the high tables with their equally high stools and proceeded with our order. Regular tables and chairs are available in the back garden but as the area was only fan cooled, we opted to stay in the air conditioned section in the front. The temperature here was comfortable enough and the piped music bearable to my ears, although the decibel level heats up considerably when the live music from Urban 7 begins at 9.30pm.

Bricks & Barrels is one of the new breed of ‘gastro’ pubs that have begun mushrooming in Ipoh. Based on the concept of an English pub and instead of serving boring pub grub as most are prone to do, gastropubs are meant to elevate pub food to gastronomic levels offering wholesome well prepared food at prices that while not cheap, nevertheless won’t make a hole in people’s pockets.

Bricks & Barrels does this well. This is a place where families can come to taste and sample western food and leave before the party crowd descends. This is when the music gets raucous and the beer and booze really start to flow.

The menu at Bricks & Barrels is quite extensive although starters are restricted to three soups, two salads and a ratatouille which is a mediterranean-style stewed mixed vegetable in a tomato base served with sourdough bread. The mushroom soup which arrived was fragrant, thick and creamy and for the small eaters at our table, more than enough for two people. A Tapas or snack menu also serves as an alternative to starters and one has a choice of a variety of small titbits to whet one’s appetite as one waits for the main courses to arrive. These range from fried lamb bits to fried calamari or squid, buffalo wings or chicken bits.

The specialty at Bricks & Barrels appear to be meat with Pork dominating the menu and starring in myriad roles. From the English Roast Pork belly to the Roasted Teriyaki Pork Loin, or the Porky Parmigiana which is pan fried, breadcrumbed pork loin, topped with cheddar and mozzarella cheese, the pork menu is extensive.

Pork also shows up in their pastas in their Porky Carbonara, with Italian Parmesan cream, portabello mushrooms and bacon; their Roast Pork Aglio Olio which is simply spaghetti tossed with virgin olive oil, garlic and topped with roasted pork belly chunks a’la our Chinese Siew Yoke, combining elements of east and west; and their Spaghetti Porky Bolognese, the perfect option for those who don’t eat beef.

And if that wasn’t porky enough, three of their pizzas feature pork from the Hawaiian Pork Pizza with bacon, pineapple, Italian mozzarella to the Roast Pork Pizza and the German Sausage Pizza. Their pizzas are thin crusted, crispy and well worth ordering. On the night we were there we ordered the Smoked Duck Pizza which I would go back for.

But the crème de la crème and the most impressive dish is their Porky Platter, a Hog’s heaven for 4-6 people consisting of 3 types of German sausages, barbecued spare ribs, roast pork and potato wedges. Two types of sauce came with the platter as did Sauerkraut (German pickled cabbage) and pickled gherkins. The spare ribs were falling off the bone tender and the roast pork with its superb crackling a real treat, not to mention the crispy potato wedges which I couldn’t resist picking at. This platter was certainly enough for the seven of us with leftovers to spare.

We then ordered the Creamy Seafood Spaghetti with a white wine parmesan sauce, squid, prawn and capelin roe. This was delectable, with generous chunks of scallop, squid, big prawns, sundried tomatoes and the white wine bringing the right smidgen of tartness to the sauce. And to my delight, the spaghetti was al dente.

By this time we were groaning with surfeit but soldier on we did and ordered dessert. We only managed one as the others we wanted were out of stock. The ingredients in this dessert intrigued us and proved to be worth the effort. This Premium Vanilla ice cream was topped with olive oil, sea salt and a raspberry balsamic glaze, marrying savoury with sweet. This was a mixed marriage that worked, the sea salt and virgin olive oil bringing a hint of the Mediterranean to an otherwise bland dessert.

Of course other meat items are also on the menu with chicken, lamb and even Wagyu beef but for me I will go to Bricks & Barrels for their porky dishes.

Ladies will be pleased to know that on Tuesday nights, selected complimentary cocktails will be served and massive discounts given on other cocktails.

Creamy Seafood Spaghetti — RM30
Spaghetti Roast Pork Aglio Olio — RM24
Mushroom Soup — RM12
Soup of the Day — RM6
Caesar Salad (with chicken) — RM20
Smoked Duck Pizza — RM32
Roast Pork Pizza — RM29
Porky Parmigiana — RM23
Porky Platter (for 4-6 persons) — RM98
Tapas — From RM13-RM16

Bricks & Barrels
28-30 Jalan Lau Ek Ching, Ipoh.
Tel/Fax: +60 5-253 8558
Email: BricksAndBarrelsHQ@facebook.com
www.facebook.com/BricksAndBarrels
Sun-Thu: 5pm-1pm;  Fri-Sat: 4pm-2am
GPS:  N 04° 35.919  E 101° 05.133

SeeFoon finds yet another ‘Tai Chao’ Gem in the heart of town

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

They say that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and in my case, I am blessed to have found my ‘flock’. My group of Foodie friends are always the first to try out a new restaurant or in many instances discover little gems that often we walk or drive past without even a second glance.

Wu So Peng is a case in point. Discovered by my peripatetic foodie ‘scout’ Ginla Chew, this is another of the Tai Chao (meaning ‘Big Fry-Up’) restaurants with unprepossessing exterior but harbouring big ambitions in the kitchen. It even has a fancy printed menu featuring close to 200 dishes.
But menus aside, we all know that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”, so a group of us traipsed off to give the restaurant a try. For a start I have to give the proprietors full kudos for being innovative. The restaurant is not air-conditioned but they did go to the trouble of setting up a cooling water drip system on their canopy to help relieve some of our extreme heat. There are ample tables with loads of space in between, not squashed in as some smaller restaurants tend to be.

Looking at their extensive menu, we decided to leave it up to them to bring their signature dishes one by one to the table. And bring it one by one by one by one they did – to a total of 13 dishes in all!

We tucked in first to the Sayur Paku (jungle fern) fried in sambal belacan and dried prawns. This had good wok hei or wok aroma and had a nice bite to it, the dried prawns providing a slight crunchy texture to the crisp Sayur Paku. Everyone was offered a bowl of the Lai Tong or soup of the day which, on the day we went, was a brown marrow or Lo Wong Kwa, umami and clear.

Other dishes came in quick succession, a Claypot Catfish fried dry in soya sauce, with scallions and garlic; Eggplant with minced meat which was delectable although a tad too oily; Tong Poh Yoke or pork belly braised in dark soya sauce was tender; Wu So Kai or whiskered chicken smothered in ginger paste and scallions; Marmite Chicken which was too sweet for my palate but others loved it and Sweet Sour Pork Ribs which were done just right – neither too sweet nor sour and the ribs tender inside.

The Pork Knuckle came next, a generously sized knuckle deep fried to a crisp, and almost falling off the bone. This was served with two different sauces, a Thai style sweet and sour with cucumber and onions almost raw and the other a dried Wai San, Gei Ji or Chinese Yam and Goji Berries sauce that was dark, robust and very umami. This was a delectable treat, the skin crispy, the meat tender and the gelatinous bits from tendons and some fat alleviating any tendency to dryness of the whole knuckle.

Next came the Asam Fish Head, cut into pieces, cooked with ladies fingers (okra), tomatoes, long beans and onions. This was tangy, not overly sweetened, the tamarind sauce with just the right note of acidity and the fish head pieces very fresh.

This was followed by a dish of pig’s Fallopian Tubes or Sang Cheong fried with dried prawns, scallions, garlic and oodles of my favourite Chu Yau Tsar (crispy chunks of rendered lard). I love offal and this came at the end which was a pity as I could have eaten more, the whole dish being so satisfying and appealing to my taste buds with the fallopian tubes rubbery (its an acquired taste), the rendered lard crispy, and the rest of the condiments and garnishes serving up a cornucopia of taste and textures.

By this time we were a group of very satiated diners but ever the inquisitive foodie, I needed a taste of something ‘Tsing’ (clear or pure in the sense of food) and promptly ordered a congee with frog’s legs and minced pork. We had to wait 15 minutes for it as it was done a’la minute but it was well worth it. The congee was delectably umami, the frog’s legs tender and succulent and the minced pork lending its flavour to the broth which we all slurped up with alacrity.

We promised ourselves to return on another occasion to check out their noodle and rice dishes as well as their specialty steamed fish which was listed with seasonal prices on the menu as were their crab and prawn dishes. This time we were happy to stick to the home-style dishes.

Sayur Paku (small) – RM6
Lai Tong (soup of the day) – free
Claypot Catfish – RM38 per kg
Eggplant (small) – RM7
Wu So Kai or whiskered chicken (half a chicken) – RM25
Marmite Chicken (small) – RM12
Shanghai (Sweet Sour) Pork Ribs (small) – RM12
Deep-Fried Pork Knuckle – RM40
Asam Fish Head (small) – 20
Fallopian Tubes or Sang Cheong (small) – RM10
Frog’s legs – RM30 per kg

Kedai Makanan Laut Wu So Peng
7 & 7A Plaza Kinta, Jalan Dato’ Tahwil Azar
Tel: Ah Choy 012-559 7840, Shop: 05-255 8840
Hours: 11am-10.30pm
GPS: N 04° 35.515; E 101° 05.019
Closed 2 days a month Wed/Thurs.

SeeFoon dines in Moghul Magnificence

Musings on Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

It’s been a long time since Ipoh diners have had the pleasure of dining in a ‘posh’ ambiance. Outside of Indulgence on Jalan Raja DiHilir which has garnered for itself a reputation for fine dining in a setting resplendent with the colonial heritage of the long ago, Ipoh restaurants in general tend to be long on good food but sorely short on decor, ambiance and cleanliness.
Once in a blue moon, a restaurant comes along that puts many other restaurants to shame, a shining bastion of grandeur and warm friendly service. And the food is second to none.

I am referring to the Tandoor Grill, which beckons in its Moghul magnificence on Jalan Chin Choon Sam, opposite Movenpeak in Greentown.
I have often passed it during its construction phase and wondered what kind of place it would be, with its pointed horseshoe arches and generous parking spaces all around. I missed the grand opening party to which I was invited but subsequently managed to sample both the lunch buffet as well as the à la carte menu in one of their sumptuous private rooms.

The buffet lunch at RM23.90 is incredible value with 10 main courses, soup, salad, dessert, an unlimited topping up of butter Naan served fresh from the oven at your table, followed by dessert and coffee. Unlike many a tired buffet I have had the misfortune to experience, the lunch buffet at the Tandoor Grill tastes fresh from the kitchen with a change in main courses everyday. The service was most attentive, with each request for Naan promptly executed and the service staff courteous and willing to please.

The physical premises of the Tandoor Grill is impressive. While the exterior of the building is decidedly Moghul in style, the interior is more eclectic and modern. Upstairs, the Cinnamon Ballroom, with a seating capacity of 800, is spectacular while downstairs, aside from the main dining hall which can accommodate 88 people at one sitting, there are 10 private rooms which can seat between 10 to 20 people at a time with charges varying from RM100 for an 8-10 seater room to RM300 the latter being the Royal Cinnamon Room. Pricey as the room charges may appear, they may be applied towards food and drink, so if a group of 10 opts for the most expensive room, it works out to only RM30 per head, which is easily covered by the price of food and drinks per person.

A subsequent visit saw a group of us sitting in the Royal Cinnamon Room enjoying an à la carte meal. It began with the Royal Murgh Soup, a thick creamy chicken soup that is a meal in itself if one were to really eat every spoonful; flavourful with hints of herbs and spices and yet not spicy enough to offend even the most delicate of taste buds – RM10.50.

Next came a starter of Chicken Samosas, crispy on the outside and stuffed with a generous portion of chicken, served with a tangy mint and coriander chutney – RM10.90. This was followed by the Tandoor Ki Nazakat, a mixed grill (RM49.90) of Tandoori Chicken – RM12 for quarter, RM22 for half and RM42 for whole; Chicken and Fish Tikka – RM18.90 eachChicken Reshmi Kebab – RM17.90; and Mutton Seekh Kebab – RM19.90. These were served with a bread basket of garlic, butter and cheese Naan fresh from the oven.

Then the rice, a Masala Biryani (RM7.90) and the delectable Hyderabadi Gosht Biryani (RM20.90), basmati rice cooked with tender mutton cubes flavoured with aromatic spices, came with a dazzling assortment of ‘wet’ dishes, almost too numerous to list here in this short article. I particularly liked the Kadhai Mutton, tender pieces of mutton cooked Lahori style on a slow fire with tomatoes, onions, capsicums and aromatic spices – RM28.90; the Methi Fish, boneless pieces of fish cooked in a fenugreek gravy – RM23.90; the Malabar Prawn, cooked in a delicately spiced coconut and mustard based curry, RM30.90.

The two vegetarian dishes Bhendi Masala, okra tossed with onions, tomatoes and spices (RM11.90) and Palak Paneer, fresh spinach cooked with homemade cottage cheese and cream, were noteworthy, in particular the Palak Paneer which was velvety smooth, the cottage cheese lending substance to the creamy consistency – RM16.90.

Then came dessert, by which time, all of us were totally sated. However, the temptation was too great and I had to dip my spoon into the Ghajar Halwa, pudding made with carrots and milk – RM6.90Rasmalai, homemade cottage cheese balls in sweetened milk flavoured with nuts – RM7.90 and the Badami Kulfi, the traditional Indian ice-cream, flavoured with almonds (RM8.90) all of which were delicious but far too sweet for my taste.

All in all, the service was impeccable, with Gurmit the manager and the waiters able to explain the dishes in good English. A family owned affair, The Tandoor Grill’s patriarch, Jagit Singh, together with son Malvinderjit Singh and daughter Jasvinderjit Kaur, run the show after a tedious setting up process which involved going to India and personally interviewing and hiring all the chefs and service staff. Well it looks like their hard work has paid off. I only hope that as time goes on, the service remains at the same levels and the toilets, which were spotless, will remain in the same condition.

The Tandoor Grill
 9 Jalan Chin Choon Sam, Greentown
Tel: 05-255 5995; 05-253 5995
Open 7 days a week 11.30am-3.30pm; 6.30pm-11pm
Pork free. Serves alcohol.